What is Ethics First?
NCRA’s “Ethics First” program was developed for a single reason: To recognize our members who have made a commitment to abide by and promote the rules of the Code of Professional Ethics (COPE), particularly with regard to gift-giving.
Through its grassroots efforts, Ethics First seeks to positively educate court reporters, firms, and clients that the impartiality and neutrality of the court reporter is of utmost importance in maintaining an unbiased legal system. Getting the word out to attorneys, legal staff, and other consumers of court reporting services about the perils of accepting free gifts from court reporting firms is also one of the Ethics First committee charges.
Ethics First has prepared presentations geared toward state court reporting associations and state bar associations with goals of increasing court reporter membership in the program, as well as encouraging attorneys to hire firms and reporters who are Ethics First members.
NCRA’s Ethics First program invites all firms abiding by COPE to join Ethics First and to reference this website. This will assure your clients that you understand the ethical implications that gift-giving entails and are doing your part to ensure that the legal system remains entirely impartial. The Ethics First logo demonstrates to your clients, to your peers, and to your competition that you refuse to risk compromising the judicial system through practices which are in conflict with COPE.
Sign up today and help join this grassroots, nationwide effort to advocate for the neutrality of the court reporter in legal system.
History of Ethics First
In 1993 NCRA adopted as part of its Code of Professional Ethics a policy that prohibits giving excessive gifts to attorneys, clients, witnesses, insurance companies, or other persons or entities associated with the litigation. The original policy set a limit of up to $25 in value per occurrence and $50 in aggregate per person per year. The limit later was set at $100 per recipient per year.
The policy was established because the NCRA Board of Directors believed that the practice of providing gifts, rewards, or incentives to attorneys, clients or their representatives or agents undermines and dilutes the integrity of the reporting profession and the status of the reporter as a neutral and impartial officer of the court. Giving excessive gifts and incentives can create in the eye of the public the appearance of partiality or favoritism on the part of the reporter towards the recipient.
The Board of Directors in 2008 asked the Committee on Professional Ethics to review the policy. As a result of that process, the association’s policy on gift giving was reaffirmed, and COPE Advisory Opinion No. 45 was issued to clarify the policy. In 2011, at COPE’s recommendation, the policy on gift giving has been revised to prohibit all gifts, regardless of their value, given as an incentive for future work. COPE is working on another Public Advisory Opinion to assist members in complying with the new policy.
In addition, the Ethics First program was created as a positive and proactive effort to encourage reporters, firms, and the clients they serve to promote the impartiality and the neutrality of the reporting profession and avoid inappropriate gift giving and gift acceptance. The Ethics First logos were created to instill public confidence in the court reporting profession, and the program, and when court reporters, attorneys, or other legal professionals see the logos, they will be assured that the court reporter understands the ethical implications with incentive gift-giving.